So, today's post is about Bracketing. Unlike the HDR option, the bracketing feature doesn't combine the photos for you but instead takes a set of 3 photos based on the settings. It's then your choice to combine if you want using software.
I used a tripod for all the experiments below so that when merging, photos would be properly aligned. I also took these photos in manual mode but the features will also work in P, A and S.
To make this easier on yourself, make certain that you get correct exposure first before taking the photos because the camera will take exposure points based on what exposure you selected. E.g. if I had my exposure at -1 instead of 0 (correctly exposed), then the exposure settings will start with -1 as the "correctly exposed" photo and place the exposed points from there.
Auto Exposure Bracketing allows for RAW format whereas White Balance Bracketing and Picture Wizard Bracketing doesn't. As you will need to set AE, WB and PW bracketing using the drive button, you can't use Continuous Drive or the Timer. The features will each take 3 photos based on your settings.
Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB)
Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) is meant to provide you with 3 different exposures (some more advanced cameras allow more than 3 photos), one underexposed, one correctly exposed and one over exposed. The idea is that you get 3 options to choose from later on if you are not certain what exposure to use in a specific lighting. You can decide on how many stops e.g. -2, 0, +2. The negative and positive will be the same number.
The AE Bracket feature is favoured for HDR (High Dynamic Range) which records more detail in shadows and highlights when 3 or more different exposure photos are combined. You do require software for this and while Lightroom 4 is a powerful product you still need photoshop to merge the photos into an HDR image. There are also other programs for merging, I use Photomatix but Photoshop Elements might be a cheaper option.
I played with Auto Exposure Bracket photos in Photoshop 11 Photomerge-Exposure feature. The initial result given lost shadow detail, highlights and was oversaturated but under Smart Blending I was able to bring back more detail.
To use the AE Bracketing exposure feature, click on the Drive button (to the left of the middle OK button on the camera body) and scroll to your right and select AE Bracketing. Once selected you now need to select the exposure points.
Click the Menu button and scroll down and select the User Settings (where the red arrow is pointing).
Now scroll down to Bracket Set and Select AE Bracket set. A side menu will pop up and give you a selection of exposure points with -/+3 being the highest (+3) and the lowest (-3). For example, if you select -/+3 the camera will take 3 photos, one underexposed by -3 points, one perfectly exposed by 0.0 and one overexposed by +3 points.
The lower the number selected e.g. -/+0.7EV, the less of a change in exposure (light and dark) you will see. The higher the number, the bigger the difference.
You can't use the timer (as it's under the Drive feature and you can't select both Bracketing and Timer) to prevent camera shake when touching the camera (even when using a tripod) so I found that the easiest way was to changing my shooting option to One Touch Shot.
Menu<Camera Settings<Touch AF<One Touch Shot
This way, you touch the screen where you want to place the focus and it will immediately take a shot for you without having to touch any other part of the camera, accidentally causing camera shake.
In the photos below you see the difference in exposure points and a comparison to an un-merged and two merged exposure points. Only the merged have been edited, everything else is Straight out of camera (SOOC). Notice how the shutter speed changes (why a tripod or stable surface should be used) but the Aperture stays the same in Manual?
In Manual you can change the Shutter Speed and Aperture but as you have to press a button to change the Shutter Speed, the camera keeps the Aperture you selected and changes the Shutter Speed. You can still change the shutter speed and the exposure points will adjust from there.
Aperture Priority Mode does the same, keeps the Aperture you want and changes the Shutter Speed but you can't adjust the shutter speed individually.
In Shutter Priority, the camera keeps the shutter speed you select and changes the Aperture.
Program Mode seems to favour the Aperture, so this you can set while the mode changes the Shutter Speed.
In Auto, Smart Auto mode and Lens Priority mode Brackets are not available.
Here the exposure points -/+3 selection was used. Note that the over exposed photo is far more brighter than the +2 below. The underexposed photo is also darker than the -2 below.
The -/+2 selection was chosen here. You could work with the darker -2 exposed photo as it contains more detail than the -3 (which could be more difficult to recover).
The top photo is correct exposure without bracketing using Auto White Balance. The two photos below show a loss of shadows with the -2 exposure setting losing more than -3. The bracket merges could be tweaked more with better software and produce a fairly nice photo.
AE Bracketing is great for trying different exposures quickly and effortlessly. If you want to go HDR out of camera then that is an entirely different technique that needs to be done well to look good. But it's achievable based on your skills, the Samsung NX300 will help with the first part.
I will be working a post about the HDR function in camera on the Samsung NX300 after this posting.
White Balance Bracketing (WBB)
RAW is not available here, only JPEG.
What if you took a photo and it came out too cool or too warm? Instead of fiddling with settings, you change the Bracket settings (see above for changing the settings to AEB) and instead of AE Bracket set select WB Bracket set.
Now similar to AEB in changing the points, here you will change by how many points cooler or warmer the photos. AB is Amber value (yellow, orange) and MG is Magenta value (red, pinkish).
So if you choose AB -/+2 you will have one photo with Auto White Balance (AWB or the white balance you selected), one photo with a warmer, more yellow/orange cast (colour) and one with less yellow/orange.
If you choose MG-/+2, one photo will be AWB, one with more red/pink and one with less red/pink. Unlike AE Bracketing, in White Balance Bracketing you can only change by increments of 1.
Photos below are SOOC. Note that with WB Bracketing, Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO don't change at all. You can use other White Balance options under the Camera Settings<White Balance or by pressing the Fn button and scrolling to White Balance and choosing a setting e.g. Cloudy.
The camera will use that setting as the starting point and base the bracketing on that.
Amber value (AB) -/+3. More yellow in +3 photo and less yellow in -3 photo.
Magenta value (MG) -/+3.
If you not certain about what white balance to use, first choose the one you think is closest e.g. Cloudy Day or go with Auto and let the camera choose. If you are more knowledgeable about White Balance you can use a custom white balance (uses a Grey Card to get the correct balance) and bracket from there.
Picture Wizard Bracketing
The Picture Wizard Bracketing feature is more fun orientated and for those who want a photo in different styles e.g. Vivid, Retro etc. This is a very quick method for trying out those styles but you are limited to 3 at a time from a selection of 9.
RAW is not available, only JPEG. To select the P Bracket feature, press the Drive button (to the left of the OK button) and scroll until you get to P Bracket and select. To change the styles, go to Menu<User Settings<Bracket Set<P Wiz Bracket Set and select 3 styles.
Your aperture, shutter speed and ISO don't change, only the styles. To get an idea of how each of the styles look, go to: Smart Filters and Picture Wizard.
f.4, 1/80, ISO 100. The settings stayed the same, only the styles changed.
There isn't much else to add about Picture Wizard Bracketing, it's a very simple and straightforward method and one you will most likely use more than the AE Bracketing and WB Bracketing.
Just for the fun of it I Photomerged with Exposure in PSE 11 (breaking the rules lol). I merged the Vivid (for the red and yellow colours), Forest (for the intense green) and Retro (for the brown). This is the result:
The colour here is far more rich than with a single Auto White Balance photo.
So you have an idea of what a little bit of imagination can do and help you create a photo with the colour elements you want by using the Picture Wizard Styles. You are not restricted to 3 styles in Photoshop Elements, so you can take as many selections of 3's as you want, then choose how many, if not all to merge and see what happens.
Next up, and hopefully soon, Dynamic Range using the Smart Range + and HDR.